Days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer around here. Summer is knocking at the door. I painted in the Berkeley Hills on Friday afternoon in front of a film crew from work for an instructional video to tempt people away from their keyboards. This scene must be familiar to anyone who's gone through a body of my work, as I've painted here many times over the last 17 years. In addition, I've dragged probably a hundred colleagues up here to paint with me. Though the shapes are familiar, I always enjoy trying to get the color and light of that specific period. In the afternoon, the sun drops lower and lower, unifying all bg colors and knocking out details, as the glare and haze of the light intensifies. I know the light is always changing, and after 17 years, I've changed as well, so the challenges and pleasures of this sort of scene are renewed. Its always a good workout. Things I contemplate messing with in the studio are the yellow bald spot on the ridge in the upper left, and the edges of the tree silhouettes on top.
Painted on Saturday down in Canyon, a second growth Redwood and Bay Laurel forest in a ravine, with a trickling creek running through it. I've ridden bikes through there for years, and enjoy coming here to paint, especially when it gets warm out. The temperature in the forest is usually 10 -15° cooler than it is in town. I am intrigued by these types of scenes, and am still trying to get a better handle on controlling them. I tried to stick to a basic pattern of of light and dark, but there's some ambiguous transition areas, and perhaps both tree trunks are too parallel. Overcoming the 'facts' of what lies in front of me in nature is an ongoing challenge. What to leave out, what to modify, avoiding too much detail, figuring out how to 'move the eye', all the while the light is sliding on and off the very objects one is trying to paint. The studio can be an 'ER' of sorts to examine and correct these concerns. This one will need it.
Sunday mid-morning, back in Canyon, contemplating Redwoods, and their accompanying debris field.
The light glides across twigs, branches, trunks, and leaves at an alarming rate that I'm resigned to. I used my pencil sketch as a map to where the light and shadow patterns were in the foreground, because they were gone in about 20 minutes, sometimes partially returning to taunt me into changing my patterns. We can't keep up. I think there's some amazing things down here to paint, and I'm just trying to decode it right now. Not even sure of the light level yet, as it could be a lot darker, but I get fascinated by the 'shadows within shadows' as I find those patterns to be of interest. Actually, those patterns are shadow masses that are interrupted by twigs and branches, breaking them into a series of mosaic-like shapes. I think of them as shadows trapped in a web of twigs. The trees are a rich, dark, violet red, but a blue green ambient light bathes them from above and around, and sometimes a warm bounce off the ground creates an almost incandescent effect that reminds of me of light in the Grand Canyon. A warm bounce light hitting a warm colored object in shadow is a treat for the eyes. Are any of these ideas clearly expressed in my painting? Merely hinted at. More research is needed!